The name, Dunni Olanrewaju, may not ring a bell but when one mentions Opelope Anointing, a lot of people readily know who she is. The gospel songstress and founder of Christ Apostolic Church, Opelope Anointing Praise Centre, whose hit track brought to limelight in 2000, speaks to ESTHER BAKARE about the challenges she faced before heeding the call of God, the gospel music industry and sundry issues
Can we meet you?
My name is Evangelist (Dr) Dunni Olanrewaju, popularly known as Opelope Anointing. I am a gospel musician and founder of CAC Opelope Anointing Praise Centre, Ikotun, Lagos.
How did you discover your singing talent?
I did not discover it. I prayed to God for it. Exactly in1976, I prayed to God that I wanted to start singing.
What motivated you to ask for it? Did you want to be like one of the gospel singers then?
Not really, although my mother used to sing very well. What happened was that when I got to Lagos, I was made the choir mistress of my church.
I felt the need to teach the choir members songs because back then in my village, our composer used to come from Ibadan to my village to teach the choir members some choruses which I also taught my own choir members when I arrived Lagos.
Then I felt once I finished teaching them all the choruses, what else would I teach them to sing?
That was what motivated me to ask God for the gift of composing songs.
What were the initial challenges you faced in your career?
The challenges came from the church I was attending then.
At the beginning, my plan was to be composing songs for the choir, but when my ministry started expanding, I was accused of using the choir members for my band and taking them on outings.
The elders in the church asked me to withdraw all the choir members from my band.
Later, they called me to a panel and put me on the fence -that I should either jump in or jump out.
I had to take the decision to disband the group -both choir members and outsiders in my band. I then came back to the choir as an ordinary floor member.
Before I got married in my own church, I was the choir leader, but the church I married into, they already had choir leader and his assistant, as well as other officers of the choir.
So everyone in the church thought I wouldn’t be able to cope as an ordinary member.
But I humbled myself and joined them and I was still composing songs for them after disbanding my group.
How long did you face this challenge and how did you overcome it?
I faced it for six years. A time came that some things began to happen in that church that gave me grace to leave the church. I now received the vision to start my band all over again.
When you started the band again, how many members did you start with?
Just three members.
Throughout the period I scattered the band, people were still coming to encourage me to start.
I said no because I did not want to disobey the elders and we used our head to carry local speakers and drums to outings.
There was no modern instrument.
How was sponsorship then? Was it encouraging?
A lot of people promised to launch us out by taking us to the studio but disappointment came from all over but God said I should wait for His time.
When did the breakthrough finally come?
I used to have the gift of Ewi. People used to invite me to events to sing Ewi for them.
The money I got, I would combine it with the one I realised from my sewing job because I was a seamstress and I used to make tie & dye and sell.
I also tie gele (headties) for women, fry Akara (bean cakes).
All the money I made from these, I was using to push my music.
Then God asked me to go into revival in churches before going into full time music.
I later met Rev Sola Rotimi, also a gospel musician, who encouraged me to combine all the Ewis I sang at occasions into a cassette.
He became my mentor and assisted me to go to the studio for the first time in 1988. So my first record was titled ‘Adun Igbeyawo’.
How did you receive the call about church establishment?
One day in 1988, I was calling my son but he was playing football and refused to answer me. So I lifted my hands to beat him but God rebuked me, that if I dared touch the boy!
He reminded me that He had been calling me into His ministry for years and I refused to heed His call.
Really in the church then, prophecies used to come that there is a woman that God wanted to use in CAC.
Each time the prophecy was going on, my heart used to beat fast, that I am the one being referred to.
Since that day, things began to turn upside down for me.
Then I told God, if You are calling me, lend me money to start the ministry and He asked how would I pay back
. I told God I would pay back through the churches I would be doing the revival and surprisingly, a man came from the North and brought all kinds of foodstuffs.
He also gave me N2,000. I just declared surplus for my children that there was public holiday for us, we should eat, drink and spend the money.
God then came back to me that you asked me to lend you money and I did, now what did you use the money for?
I could not answer. At that time, there was no room for Lady Evangelist in CAC, but I went to a church at Ajegunle founded by a woman.
So I started my revival ministry there. I was there for three weeks and from there, people started inviting me to different programmes.
In 1996, the spirit of God came to me to start my own ministry. I was afraid because my father and maternal grandfather died in the ministry.
So I declined and before I knew it, people started cancelling all my invitations.
They would just call to tell me that the programme had been postponed or cancelled.
Things began to go tough for me again until I decided to go into full time church ministry and we started Christ Apostolic Church Opelope Anointing Praise Centre with only one member.
It was the money I made from the Opelope Anointing album that I used to buy the land which I built the church on.
How did you receive the vision of Opelope Anointing, the name that brought you to limelight?
It was in the year 2000 that the album was launched. Prior to that time, a lot of things had happened.
I wanted to name the cassette ‘Yio Sa golo’, because each time I sang the song in any gathering, people used to like it.
Before Opelope Anointing came, I had sowed all my valuables towards the work of God.
I even sold my new fridge that I wanted to use to sell ice water, and the record I waxed that year was the worst I’ve ever produced.
I then vowed I wouldn’t sow again until one day in 1999 when I attended a programmed tagged, Fire Revival.
The man of God asked us to sow a tangible offering. I had just N200 note in my bag, which I dropped that day.
The spirit of God did not let me rest and told me if I didn’t give something tangible, God would not release
His miracle for me. So I had to call the person selling my cassette in Ibadan to gather all the money realised from cassettes sold, which was N9,600.
She was afraid because without paying the Studio Manager, we wouldn’t be allowed to produce any album.
I insisted she should bring the money.
After this, things became tougher. I signed with Premier Music, which gave me the first radio publicity. I thought things would immediately turn around for me after a vision I had on January 7, 2000.
But not until July that same year that I was at home crying and complaining to God about my challenges.
Then I heard a voice that said if not for the sake of my anointing upon you, you won’t be alive today.
So I just turned that statement to the song, Opelope Anointing, and everyone in the house also joined me and we began to sing it together. I then picked my pen and wrote it down.
What then followed after the incidence that led to the launching of the album, Opelope Anointing?
Each time we went to churches for revival, we would sing that song and everybody would like it. So one day, I decided to put it into record and wax an album with it.
The day we went to the studio, we told the manager that all the songs would be produced at once, no room for mistake.
By the time we concluded, coming out of the studio, we met a lot of people already waiting for the manager at the reception.
All of them started praising the song and one of them said please just name the album, Opelope Anointing.
The name didn’t sound well to the printers. They complained about combining Yoruba and English but God used the name to change my real name and gave me a new name which I became popular with.
What are the challenges confronting gospel music in Nigeria today?
Low patronage. When people invite us to outings, they don’t pay us well and when we are singing gospel songs, their reaction is poor.
You see pastors, deacons and some church leaders coming to hasten us and as we are packing our instruments to leave, they will slot in hip-hop and begin to dance seriously. All these bring down our morale as gospel musicians.
What is your advice to upcoming gospel artistes?
They should remain focused on their calling. The Bible says he who endures till the end shall be rewarded.
Today, I thank God for everything.
I have Opelope Anointing Foundation through which we give back to the society by distributing food items, empowerment programmes for the less privileged in the society especially widows.
We have distributed a lot of items since 2010 when it was launched to mark my 50th birthday.
Opelope Anointing Fans Club was also founded last year. We organise awards, hold fiestas and football matches.